FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Random Searches in New York’s Subway

by DAVID ANDERSON

Perhaps the greatest outrage about the new New York City government’s policy of random bag searches in the subway is the lack of outrage about it. Where are the stories about people turning around and not being searched, interviews with opponents of the policy, or even an in depth discussion of the legalities of it?

The way it has been sold to the public by almost the entire media in New York is “is it popular”, as if general acceptance is justification for a policy which goes further legally than any other in recent times. Anecdotally, the media would have us believe it is a very popular move, something that knowing New Yorkers, and being one, I find hard to believe.

Regardless, popularity is surely not the issue here. If it were put to the popular vote, there are some states where the deportation of Arab-Americans would no doubt win local elections. We have a Supreme Court, or rather will probably soon say, we HAD a Supreme Court one of whose primary functions is to preserve the rights of the individual. If it weren’t for those “Activist Judges” it is quite possible schools STILL wouldn’t be integrated, there would be no freedom of choice when it comes to reproduction, and almost certainly religion and state would have become terribly mixed. But we have hardly heard a word from judges, or the ACLU, last bastion of personal rights in America, about the random searches of the effects of innocent commuters.

The only real discussion has been the specter of racial profiling, thus taking the argument away from “Should we be doing this at all?” to “How best do we do this?”

Not only is the policy invasive of our rights, it is totally ineffective and probably counter-productive. Suicide bombers are almost by definition fanatics whose whole life’s meaning has become this one act, something they’ve trained for, thought about, risked all for, possibly traveled vast distances to accomplish, and forsaken even life itself for. Are a few bored cops at a minority of subway stations and busses really going to prevent them from going about their horrible missions? Even in the BEST case scenario it will only lead to immediate detonation at the search point, an act which could kill more people than a detonation in a subway car itself. Indeed, in the “bring it on” ideal our president is famous for, aren’t these searches basically daring the bombers to strike and thus humiliate our feeble efforts?

We hear comparisons between this policy and airport searches. For a start, catching planes is optional, for most New Yorkers, catching public transport isn’t. Are we to risk being fired for tardiness because we turned around and didn’t want out possessions riffled through by the government?

Secondly, airport searches are fairly effective, they provide a real barrier to taking explosives and metal weapons onto planes. And finally courts have held that magnetometers and metal detectors are not “searches”. By any standard, a policeman poking through your handbag or back pack is a search’.

And again we hear that famous cliché, the one President Bush can’t go on TV without saying – it “Sends a message.” The message senders, these same people who oppose a vaccine for Human Papiloma Virus, morning after contraception, needle exchanges, and even condoms, love this policy. The whole over-worn (count how many times a day you hear it) “Send a message” cliché is usually employed as a veiled threat or justification for all manner of stupidities, from invading Iraq, to wellsubway searches. When you hear it, as well as that old chestnut “In this post 9/11 world”, you just know something terribly stupid or some horrible policy is about to be announced. A policy like random bag searches.

The final horror here is that there’s nothing to suggest this is the government’s last demand. Freedom is usually destroyed in a gradual manner, it is less noticeable then. It is a short step from random subway bag searches, to random street searches, from making it optional to making it compulsory, from not asking for ID, to demanding it. And this latest policy has been put in place without even any terrorist actions against the United States! Imagine how few rights we’ll have left when something does happen here?

What freedom do we have when the government can do exactly what it wishes because it has manufactured a climate of fear like this administration has, and what freedom do we deserve when we as a society and as individuals just lie down and take it?

DAVID ANDERSON is a criminal defense attorney in New York City. He can be reached at: DocInNy@yahoo.com

 

More articles by:

David Anderson has a B.A. (Hon.) in Middle East politics from Melbourne University and did post graduate work at Georgetown University. He grew up in Australia and is a retired attorney in New York City.

November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
Jeiddy Martínez Armas
Firearm Democracy
Jill Richardson
Washington’s War on Poor Grad Students
Ralph Nader
The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law
Justin O'Hagan
Capitalism Equals Peace?
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: From the Red Sea to Nairobi
Geoff Dutton
The Company We Sadly Keep
Evan Jones
The Censorship of Jacques Sapir, French Dissident
Linn Washington Jr.
Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform
Gerry Brown
TPP, Indo Pacific, QUAD: What’s Next to Contain China’s Rise?
Robert Fisk
The Exile of Saad Hariri
Romana Rubeo - Ramzy Baroud
Anti-BDS Laws and Pro-Israeli Parliament: Zionist Hasbara is Winning in Italy
Robert J. Burrowes
Why are Police in the USA so Terrified?
Chuck Collins
Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ From Corporate Tax Cuts
Ron Jacobs
Private Property Does Not Equal Freedom
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail